GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, Mi. (WBPN/WGTU) -- "It's kind of one of those things you don't think will happen to you," says injury prevention coordinator with Munson Medical Center, Jennifer Ritter.
No one wants to think about drowning or what leads up to it. It's a reality though and something that happens to even the most advanced swimmers.
"Since the start of 2016 already there have been 12 Great Lakes drownings. Six were in Lake Michigan."
Ritter says water safety is something the community needs to address.
"We need equipment out there. We want tools available for anyone to use them if they need them and are readily available," says Ritter.
This idea sparked several agencies to form the Northwest Michigan Water Safety Network. The network submitted a grant through the Grand Traverse County Health Department and with that money installed 39 rescue stations along East and West Bays in Traverse City.
"Our grant allowed us to put them at different county and state parks along the lake shores. West Bay Beach Resort was one of the first to have this. The message we're always putting out there in the community is to not go after a victim but to throw something to them," says Ritter.
"Over the summer we respond to things like overturned kayaks and vessels. Then just people in the water. If something can go wrong it usually does," says Lieutenant Jon Ardan with Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City.
Lieutenant Ardan says planning ahead makes the difference between life or death especially when the water temperature is not much more than 60 degrees.
"The water temperature will drain your core body temp a lot faster that the air temp would. Your body will start shutting down and won't be able to move or swim. With even just jeans and a sweatshirt your survive ability is only an hour. We recommend everyone wear a dry jacket, dry material with insulating layers underneath," says Ardan.
Lieutenant Ardan says besides the dry suites, everyone should be wearing a life jacket on the water.
For more information on ongoing safety alerts and messages - CLICK HERE for Play It Safe in the Water's Facebook page.